Negotiate Like a Pro (Part 2) – Preparing to Negotiate

Welcome back to the negotiation mini-series, here on the blog and on the Twitter #PubLaw feed. Last week’s post examined the difference between Zero-Sum and Mutual Benefit negotiation, and explained why it’s better to approach publishing contract negotiations (any negotiations, really) from a mutual-benefit point of view.

Today we move on to preparation for a successful negotiation.


Preparing to negotiate a publishing contract requires more than making a list of the terms you want (or hope to change). Approaching negotiations with a solid plan increases the likelihood of a successful outcome. Here are the steps to creating that solid plan:

STEP 1: Read the contract. Make a list the terms you want to negotiate or change.

This might sound obvious, but you have to read the contract before you can possibly negotiate its terms.

Even if an agent or lawyer is handling the negotiation, authors should read the contract and make a list of questions (or questionable terms) to discuss with their representatives before the negotiation.

It’s not enough to read a summary of terms or skim the document for royalty rates and advances. Authors need to read—and understand—the document as a whole in order to decide which parts you can be lived with and which require negotiation.

STEP 2: Prioritize your list of terms to negotiate.

All contract terms are not created equal. Some are more important than others—for authors as well as publishers. Rank your desired changes in one of three categories: “Deal Breaker,” “Important (but not  mandatory),” and “Things to Ask For.”

Here’s what those terms mean:

“Deal breakers” are terms that an author must have to make a deal. If the publisher refuses to negotiate appropriate contract terms on these issues, the author will walk away from the contract.

An example: copyright ownership. If the contract transfers copyright ownership to the publisher, the author should require the publisher remove the assignment–or the author should walk away.

“Important” terms are things the author truly wants changed, but which (at least individually) won’t cause the author to refuse the contract.

Examples : retention of Film and TV rights, escalating royalties (increases in royalty percentages when sales hit stated thresholds), and the number of royalty-bearing sales required to trigger “out of print” termination rights.

“Things to Ask for” are wish-list items, worth a request but also worth letting go.

For example: the right for the author to audition to narrate the audiobook. Nice if you can get it but not worth blowing the deal.

STEP 3: Consider how the publisher will view each item on your list (and why).

Some contract terms are more important to publishers than others. Ranking your list of changes from the publisher’s point of view (in addition to yours) will help you decide  which items have the best (and worst) chances of success.

Note: Requests that require a change to the publisher’s business practices—for example, changes to royalty dates and sales statements—have a low (read: often nonexistent) chance of succeeding. 

STEP 4: Adjust your list and strategy to accommodate the publisher’s likely concerns.

Smart authors tailor negotiation lists in a way that creates the largest possible chance of success. This means preparing mutually beneficial proposals and solutions to likely problems in advance.

As an example, let’s look at narration of audiobooks.

Sometimes, authors want to narrate the audio version of their books. However, publishers want high-quality, professional narration. Instead of demanding narration rights, the author should ask for the right to audition to narrate the audiobook. Many times, publishers will agree to this, because it simply gives the author the chance to prove (s)he is the best narrator for the job.

It’s worth the time to look for mutually beneficial solutions to the requests you intend to make.

Once you finish these four steps, it’s time to negotiate – and I hope you’ll join me next Wednesday, as we look at how to conduct a successful negotiation.


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The Reconstructed Pagodas of Tōdaiji

The original structures at Nara’s Tōdaiji dated to the eighth century and included a pair of 300-foot pagodas which were subsequently destroyed in an earthquake.

A wooden model inside the Great Buddha Hall shows the original temple structures, including the pagodas, all built to scale:

16H22 Original Todaiji Model

Today, the massive pagodas are no more, but the temple does have a pair of smaller, golden pagodas located roughly in the positions where the original stupas stood.

16H22 Todaiji stupa

Although not as impressive as the original pagodas, the golden reconstructions hearken back to the Indian Buddhist stupas from which pagoda architecture evolved upon its arrival in China and then Japan.

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A Visit to Tōdaiji

Tōdaiji is a Buddhist temple located in Nara, Japan, and was founded in 728, when Emperor Shōmu established a predecessor temple on the spot to honor his son, Prince Motoi, who died while still a baby.

Today, the temple is best known (at least outside of Japan) as the location of an enormous bronze statute of the Buddha Vairocana (in Japanese, Daibutsu).

16H22 Daibutsu

While not the largest bronze Buddha in the world (or even in Japan), Tōdaiji’s Daibutsu is one of the best known and most frequently visited. Rising almost 15 meters (49′) in height, the statue weighs 550 tons (500 metric tonnes), and is housed in a hall called–not surprisingly–the Kon-dō or Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall):

16H22 Daibutsuden

The Nandaimon, or Great Southern Gate, stands some distance south of the Kon-dō, and is the first sight visitors encounter on their way to the temple precinct. The current Nandaimon dates to the 12th century, and was rebuilt after storms destroyed the original.

 16H22 Nandaimon (Todaiji)

Two guardian statues stand inside the Nandaimon.

 16H22 Nandaimon guardian

One has an open mouth while the other’s mouth is closed, forming a traditional A-un pair (something frequently seen in lion-dog guardians at other Buddhist sites).

Beyond the Nandaimon, a tree-lined path stretches toward the temple:

 16H22 Todaiji Entry

At the end of the path, visitors turn right and enter the temple grounds through a smaller doorway in the cloisters:

16H22 Todaiji entrance

Upon emerging from the other side, visitors receive their first good look at the Kon-dō:

 16H22 Tofukuji Daibutsuden

(The structure is actually visible through slats in the gate, for visitors who choose not to pay the admission price – though like most Japanese shrines and temples, admission is only a couple of US dollars.)

The Kon-dō, or Great Buddha Hall, measures 187 feet (57 meters) in length and 160 feet (50 meters) in width – and is still about 30% smaller than the largest previous version, which was destroyed by fire.

Inside the Great Buddha Hall, visitors come face to face with not only the Giant Buddha:

16H22 Daibutsu

flanked by a pair of golden Bodhisattvas:

16H22 Bodhisattva at Daibutsu

but with another pair of giant, impressive temple guardians:

 16H22 Buddha guardian (Tamonten)

This one is called Tamonten.

Visitors will also find a number of historical displays inside the Daibutsuden, including a life-sized (or, in this case, possibly larger-than-life-sized) replica of the Buddha’s hand:

16H22 Buddha's hand

and models of the original Tōdaiji (which featured a pair of stupas that measured 300 feet–100 meters–high):

16H22 Original Todaiji Model

and a model of the larger, older version of the Daibutsuden:

 16H22 Model of Older Daibutsuden

Visitors can also attempt to pass through a life-sized model of the Buddha’s nostril, which is cut into the base of a pillar. There’s a reason people want to try…but for that, you’ll have to wait for Thursday’s post.

Have you ever visited Tōdaiji? Would you like to see it, if you’re ever in Japan?

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How to Negotiate Like a Pro (Part 1)

I talk a lot about contracts, here and in my Twitter #PubLaw feed, but the publishing conversation doesn’t include nearly enough talk about how to negotiate changes to a publishing contract.

Negotiation isn’t a topic most people learn in school, and many authors feel adrift when it comes to the negotiation process. In light of that, my next few Wednesday posts will offer some tips on negotiation strategies and tactics.

Good negotiation doesn’t happen “by chance.” Successful negotiation requires proper planning, preparation, and execution.

This week, we’ll look at how to prepare a negotiation strategy. Next week, I’ll detail strategies on how to prepare for negotiation, and the following week, we’ll look at execution.

Although these posts are targeted for publishing contracts, the strategies apply to all forms of negotiation.

Ready? Let’s get started.

SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION STEP 1: Understand Your Objective.

I could talk at length about contract terms authors should try to obtain in their publishing contracts, and the terms themselves are clearly one objective in a contract negotiation. However, publishing contract negotiations also have a second objective, which authors should not ignore

The twin objectives of publishing contract negotiations are:

1. Reaching a mutually-acceptable set of contract terms, and

2. Establishing the basis for a positive business relationship moving forward.

Both of these goals are equally important. However, it’s hard to establish a positive relationship in a negotiation that feels like a street fight—even if you get the terms you wanted in the end.

Authors should learn to negotiate in a way that achieves acceptable terms without alienating the editor (or publisher) on the other side of the bargaining table. Fortunately, it’s usually possible to obtain the terms you want without creating hostility if you take the right attitude—and the right strategy—into the negotiation.

SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION STEP #2: Selecting the Proper Strategy

Two of the most common negotiating strategies are “Zero-Sum” (or “Zero-Sum Game”) and “Mutual Benefit.” Let’s take a look at each, and use translation rights (“foreign language rights”) as an example to show how each might play out in a contract negotiation.

Zero-Sum Negotiation / Zero-Sum Game

In economic and negotiating theory, a “Zero-Sum Game” is a mathematical representation of business actions in which each “point” earned by one party represents a loss for the other side. Negotiating by Zero-Sum tactics means approaching a negotiation, and the resulting contract, with an “I win-you lose” attitude. People who negotiate this way often  alienate the other side because they want to “win” as many points (in this case, acceptable contract terms) as possible.

In a Zero-Sum negotiation, the issue of foreign language rights comes down to “one of us gets them, the one does not.” Publishers often want to acquire as many rights as possible, and standard contract language almost always includes translation rights. In a zero-sum negotiation, the author’s position would be, “You can’t have translation rights and that’s the end of the matter.” Whoever ends up with the rights is the “winner” and the party without them “loses.”

Unfortunately, zero-sum negotiation in the publishing contract often leads to loss of a publishing deal, because if the publisher won’t give in the author must chose between “losing” those points and walking away from the contract. Even when the author “wins” some points, negotiation becomes a tug-of-war between absolute positions. When the dust settles, the author often feels unhappy about the points (s)he “lost” rather than pleased to have closed a deal.

Mutual Benefit Negotiation

The “Mutual Benefit” strategy represents a better choice for publishing negotiations. Mutual Benefit negotiation starts from the theory that it’s possible to reach a contract situation where each of the parties ends up in a better overall position as a result. The objective of Mutual Benefit negotiation is reaching a contract which, in the aggregate, benefits author and publisher while also laying the foundation for a positive business relationship.

Foreign rights negotiation proceeds quite differently with a mutual benefit perspective. If the publisher refuses to let the author to keep the rights, the author can propose an alternative option that benefits both sides. For example, asking for reversion of  translation rights if the publisher hasn’t sold them within a stated time (usually 24-36 months) after initial publication of the work.

By offering a third option—beyond “one wins/one loses”—mutual benefit negotiation allows for creative problem-solving to satisfy both parties’ needs. Even if the publisher doesn’t accept the author’s suggestion, offers made from a mutual benefit perspective  defuse tension in the negotiation process and make the other side feel respected. (Many publishers negotiate in this manner too, when authors and agents ask for concessions in a respectful way.)

Approaching negotiations from a mutual-benefit perspective sometimes requires an attitude adjustment, and can be difficult when the other side doesn’t seem to return the favor. However, the results are worth it—even if the publisher opts for zero-sum.

Cultivate a calm, professional attitude and creative problem-solving skills. The benefits you gain will help your career in many ways, including (but not limited to) your contract negotiations.

This week’s seahorse palate-cleanser is my little special-needs seahorse, Weeble, who has learned to hitch to the very top of the sea fan, where he can survey the entire reef:

16H17 Weeble

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My Journey to Becoming a Writer – a Guest Post from Gina Venturini

Please welcome talented poet and author (and my friend), Gina Venturini, author of Calling Love Home (2015) and the newly-released The Color of My Heart is You.

The Color of my Heart Is You

I met Gina last year while visiting family in Los Angeles, and asked her to guest post here today about her journey to publication. If you enjoy poetry, inspiration, and people with amazing positive energy, Gina is a poet, author, and person you should know (and read!). You can find both The Color of My Heart Is You and Calling Love Home on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats.

And now, with no further ado….here’s Gina.

My Journey to Becoming a Writer

As I sit here in my apartment in Los Angeles, CA brooding over the events that have taken place in my life the past few weeks, I feel a sense of relief, excitement and a need to surrender to the unknown.

Yesterday, I officially reached what is known to be middle age. My second book of poetry got published, and after 6 years of trying to wrap up the pieces of the past, they have finally been released forever to blow into the wind.

As the past has a way of making people bitter and angry, I’m quite thankful for the lessons that it taught me.

I was raised in small town America with big dreams of becoming a famous singer and I even studied opera in college, so at the age of 26, I left with a few things and drove with a high school friend to live in Minneapolis. After a little over a year of growing done with the cold weather and a few gigs singing backup for a Neil Diamond/Elvis impersonator in between serving food for tips, I left with a suitcase and took a train to Memphis TN, to join a Marriot circuit band that travelled the US. The hotel life wasn’t as glamorous as I had imagined, but it did introduce me to my past, and brought me to southern California.

There, I would spend most of my late 20s, 30s and 40s, chasing that dream of fame to only find myself with minor successes, many failures, countless jobs in different industries, promises left by the wayside, and the longing for wanting so much more while making the wrong choices to get there, and would eventually cause my world to fall apart around me. I needed change especially in my personal life.

Flash forward to 2013 when I was given an opportunity to move my life forward.

I would leave LA in a Prius, with a friend to help drive, two dogs, and a moving truck with some things and hope for new beginnings.

I had never been to Austin nor did I know anyone by name, except for my store co-manager who I had spoken with a couple of times over the phone. But what was soon to happen would not only change my life, re awaken my heart, but would also turn me into an author.

That vision that I had manifested and wrote in my journals at night while living back in LA, came in blue jeans, a white t-shirt, work boots, a trucker hat, and power tools. On paper, we would be the antithesis of each other’s lives, other than we grew up in the same state, a few mutual friends, and shared the experience of broken relationships.

Still, eleven years younger, he had this profound energy about him that drew me in took my breath away, and with just one kiss, I fell head over heels immediately. As of today, our lives have gone separate ways, but it’s the memory of him that stays deep within my heart space and inspires me to write my poetry.

Gina Venturini Headshot

Gina grew up in Nebraska, where she studied opera. After college Gina moved to the hotbed of Minneapolis and ended up singing backup vocals for an Elvis / Neil Diamond Impersonator. Wanting more she left with a suit case and took a train to Memphis, where she connected with a Marriott circuit band that toured all over the east coast and Wisconsin. Then, she was drawn to California for personal reasons and continued to pursue music. In addition to music, Gina’s creative talents branched out into fashion and she started her own jewelry line, GINA VENTURNI DESIGNS. Her jewelry has been seen on celebrities and has been worn on the red carpet at the Oscars, Sag Awards, Golden Globes, the Grammys & Tony Awards. A job and personal reasons transitioned Gina from Los Angeles to Austin Texas in 2013 where Gina’s creative talents evolved into writing and she wrote her first poetry book, “Calling Love Home” A journey of the heart. After a brief stay in Austin Texas, Gina moved back to Los Angeles to start the next chapter in her life which has evolved into here second book, “The Color of My Heart Is You.” 

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Book Signings for The Ninja’s Daughter: 8/13 & 8/14!

This weekend marks the start of the NINJA’S DAUGHTER book tour – and I couldn’t be more excited!

Here are this weekend’s appearances, with links for directions:

Saturday, August 13, 2016: 2:00 PM – Sacramento, CA
Reading & Signing: Avid Reader at Tower
1600 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818
Map Link

Sunday, August 14, 2016: 2:00 PM – San Diego, CA
Reading & Signing: Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (Joint Signing with Jeri Westerson, author of A Maiden Weeping)
5843 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100
San Diego, CA 92111
Map Link

MG Flier

I hope you’ll join me for books, Japanese treats, and fun!

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Do You Understand Your Ebook Rights?

Authors need to understand the rights they own before they can make intelligent decisions about which rights to license to a publisher – or even whether to seek traditional publishing or to choose the author-publisher route.

Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, it’s important to understand ebook rights, how they factor into the bundle of copyright-related rights, and what you should–and shouldn’t–give away.

Today, I’m guest-blogging at Writers in the Storm about ebook rights and how to manage them properly. Click here to take a look!

For those whose tastes run more to the Japanese side of the equation, here’s a photograph my son texted me from Japan this morning. He’s working there this summer, and currently spending a couple of days off in Tokyo . . . eating french fries.

Giga Potatoes

According to the menu, these are “Six-Sauce Three Flavor Giga Potatoes” – and they look like some mighty-fine potatoes, indeed.

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A Warning For Authors About Signing Books

Apologies in advance for the click-bait title–I didn’t intend it that way, but I couldn’t find a better one that accurately expressed the content of the post.

Most authors look forward to signing books. It’s one of the greatest moments in an author’s career, and for many of us it never gets old, no matter how many books we’re asked to sign.

Autographed books make wonderful keepsakes, and many readers treasure them for years (if not for a lifetime).

However, autographed books can also provide a dangerous opportunity for scammers and identity thieves . . . wherein lies today’s warning.

When signing books, don’t use the same signature you use for signing checks and credit card charge slips.

Consider the signature you use when signing checks, credit card slips, and legally binding contracts. What does that signature include? Your full legal name? Your middle initial? Do you spell out every part, or does your signature reduce some parts of your name to squiggles?

The signature card on file at your bank represents your “legal signature” and the bank will compare that card to questionable signatures if the veracity of your signature comes into question.

Use a different “version” of your name when signing books, to prevent scammers and thieves from capturing the signature off a book and using it for identity theft.

Although incidents of thieves using autographed books to forge an author’s signature are rare, why give a thief a foothold? The technology to capture and copy signatures does exist (most people carry it around with them every day…in the form of a mobile phone).

By using a different version of your name when signing books, you can’t prevent a thief from trying to use your signature for fraud, but you create a better defense against the fraudulent charges. If you can prove that you always sign your books in a slightly different way–or with a different version of your name–banks and other financial institutions and credit bureaus are more likely to accept that you may not have made the charges you’re disputing.

For example, I sign books “SSpann” – which is not the signature I use when signing legal documents. (Sorry…I’m not telling you what my legal signature is–while it’s not a secret, per se, I’m also not giving anyone extra ammunition.)

If your legal signature includes your first name, middle initial, and surname, consider these options for your author signature:

– Using only the first initial and last name.

– Omitting the middle initial.

– Using your first and middle initials and full surname.

Changing your signature will not guarantee safety; you may still find yourself having to defend against fraudulent charges or identity theft. In truth, identity theft occurs in many different ways, and as I mentioned earlier, stealing the signature from an author’s book ranks very low on that list. However, when it comes to protecting yourself and your identity, creating a “book signature” costs you nothing and adds at least a minimal layer of protection. I can’t guarantee it will save you from liability in every case, but it certainly does not hurt. 

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The Irises of Tofuku-ji

During last summer’s visit to Tofuku-ji, I spent some time enjoying the temple’s beautiful flower gardens. Tofuku-ji is famous for its irises (which fortunately bloom in June, when I was in Japan).

16H07 Iris Garden, Tofukuji

Although it rained the day I visited, leaving the flowers a bit more limp than usual, I found them vibrant, beautiful, and well-worth their reputation as among some of the lovelier flower gardens in Japan.

16H08 Tofukuji Iris

What are your favorite flowers? Do you like Irises?

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A Visit to Tofuku-ji

I love sharing photographs from my research trips to Japan, both because of my fondness for Japanese culture, history, and architecture and because I like giving context to go along with the images. (I notice a lot of online photos show the setting, but don’t explain it, and I hope my “virtual tours” will help give context to these incredible sites.)

Today, we’re visiting Tofuku-ji, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple just south of Kyoto that also provided one of the settings for my first Hiro Hattori / Shinobi mystery, Claws of the Cat.

16H07 Tofukuji entrance

Originally founded in 1236, Tofuku-ji remains one of Kyoto’s premier Zen temples, and is listed among the Kyoto Gozan (“five greatest Zen temples of Kyoto”). Like many temples, Tofuku-ji was damaged by fire during the medieval era, and rebuilt.

The temple’s main gate, the Sanmon, dates to 1425 (with only minor restoration work - the gate in this photograph is almost 600 years old).

16H07 Tofukuji Sanmon 

In fact, the Sanmon at Tofuku-ji is the oldest such gate in Japan.

Tofuku-ji sits about a 15 minute walk from the closest JR train station (conveniently also called Tofukuji), along a lightly-traveled road and up a long drive. It rained the day I visited, providing an excellent, if slightly foreboding, atmosphere.

(I plan to head back to the temple this October, when I visit Japan for another research trip, and I look forward to seeing the difference between the way it looks in summer and in autumn.)

16H07 Tofukuji ticket house : garden entry

The building on the left is the Zen-do, a hall which sits near the entrance to the famous Tsuten-kyo (a covered bridge that appears as one of the settings in Claws of the Cat).

Just past the Zen-do, a covered walkway leads through lovely, manicured gardens filled with Japanese maples and evergreens:

16H07 Tofukuji garden

And then to the entrance to the Tsuten-kyo:

16H07 Tofukuji bridge

The tsuten-kyo and a parallel bridge, the Ganun-kyo, span a tree-filled gorge through which a river flows. You can see the roof of the Ganun-kyo ahead through the trees in the photograph below (which was taken from the midpoint of the tsuten-kyo):

 16H07 T Bridge View

Paths and stairs lead down to the gorge, and visitors can walk there also–though I, sadly, didn’t have time to visit the lower part of the garden during my visit. (I hope to remedy that this autumn, and if I do, I’ll definitely bring back plenty of photographs!)

The bridges are quite high off the ground – much higher than the photos taken directly across the treetops might suggest:

16H07 Tofukuji view from bridge

The bridges are one of Tofuku-ji’s most famous, and most often visited, sites, especially in autumn, when the bridges are supposed to be one of the best foliage-viewing spots in Japan.

16H07 Tofukuji Bridge (with balcony)

Beyond the bridges lies the kaisandō, or founder’s hall–a traditional Buddhist hall enshrining the image and memorial tablet of the founding abbot. Sometimes, important teachers or monks who lived and taught at the temple are also honored there. 

The approach to the kaisandō features a covered walkway that connects directly to the tsuten-kyo.

16H07 Steps to Abbot's Garden

The walkway opens into a lovely garden adjacent to the kaisandō veranda–a lovely place to meditate, or to sit out the rain and enjoy the natural beauty.

16H07 Tofukuji Abbot's garden in rain

I hope you’ll join me next week, as we continue our walk through Tofuku-ji! (And I’ll post some additional photographs on Tuesday and Thursday also.)

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